Yes, you heard that right. Wide-ranging studies have now proven that sunscreen CAUSES skin cancer.
But so does sun damage.
Well… poop. Now what do we do?
My asbestos (not the cancer-causing kind) friend predicted this. When the report came out she challenged me to make my own sunscreen. Probably not going to do that, now that I know what I know. But it prompted this post. Stalker (or not), this one is for you, my friend.
Don’t worry. Lazy Hippie Mama’s been doing some research. Here’s what I learned:
First of all, nature gives us a guide.
Eating high-antioxidant foods as well as those rich in vitamin c or lycopene actually help make your skin more able to protect itself. If you eat a lot of them you are less likely to burn. Which foods would those be? They are foods that are most readily available in summer and/or from the parts of the world where the sun is most intense. They are strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, coconuts, citrus fruits, tomatoes, olives, beans and nuts. With all these foods, feast! God put what you need in the time and place you need it.
God also gave us big, beautiful brains. Think when you choose your clothing. If you run around naked, your skin may be in danger. Not just from the sun, but from scrapes and scratches and bug bites and the lingering stares of creepy people at Wal-Mart. Choose very breezy, lightweight fabrics and big floppy brimmed hats. Dress like…. well…. dress like a hippie! Hippies are awesome. :) Or a romantic, if you prefer.
The sun is NOT evil! Sunshine is good for you. Really very healthy. Doctors recommend laying brand new babies in the sunshine to treat jaundice. A lack of sun exposure will cause vitamin D deficiency and lead to weakened bone structure. There is no need to slather a gallon of sunscreen on under your make-up every day. You don’t need to hose your child down each time you step out the door. Give your pores a break. A 30 minute walk on a tree-lined street or a short visit to the park isn’t going to require protection for the average person. If you are high risk, that may be different. In that case, follow your doctor’s advice. I’m not a doctor, just a lazy hippie mama.
If you are very quick to burn or are very sensitive, or just can’t stomach the idea of leaving your beautiful alabaster skin naked under those harsh UV rays, put a bit of coconut oil on. Coconut oil, at room temperature, is a soft solid. It is very creamy in texture and has a natural SPF of 4. So it’s just a tiny bit of help on a sunny day and it is not only safe but very nourishing. It actually helps cure and prevent acne!
Finally, know that not all sunscreen is equal!
30 minutes at the shady park in a t-shirt and shorts is not at all in the same league as an 8 hour day on the beach in a bikini. When you go to the beach, WEAR SUNSCREEN!
The Environmental Working Group has done very extensive research on, what has to be, very nearly every commercial brand of sunscreen in existence (under the sun, as it were. Hahaha). There are lots of big scary sounding words on their website but there is a very user-friendly search tool which you can use to look for sunscreen that is safe.
The most safe?
Plain zinc oxide. It’s the white stuff lifeguards used to (still do?) wear on their noses. Safe enough for your baby’s bum. In fact, that’s a very common place to find it… in diaper cream. Zinc oxide is the only sunscreen the FDA approves of for babies under 6 months of age. But if it contains nano-particles the safety is undetermined. A nano-particle is 100x smaller than a human hair. The effect of chemicals, compressed to such an extreme, has not been studied in depth because the technology is so new. Pretty much all “clear” sunscreens (or even opaque ones) are “micronized.” That’s fine. But remember this: All nanoparticles are micronized. Not all micronized are nano. Read labels carefully!
If you don’t want to look like a circa 1981 lifeguard, there are several choices that rank at a level 1 or 2 safety (0 being as safe as water, 6 & up being very dangerous) Common, easy-to-find brands that rank as a 1 or 2 are:
Burt’s Bees. The baby stuff. The others rank slightly lower.
Coppertone pure and simple SPF 50. Again, read carefully, there are other Coppertone products that rank 6 or higher.
Kiss My Face, SPF 40. Kiss My Face products, so far as I noticed, ranked consistently among the most safe.
I was surprised to see that Bare Minerals ranked very poorly.
Price didn’t seem to have much relation to safety or effectiveness. The Coppertone Pure and Simple was less than $10. I saw other brands that were $40 a bottle or more with a very poor rating.
If you have a brand that you are very loyal to, I recommend checking it out.
Both the EWG and the FDA recommend avoiding anything over SPF 50. There are no benefits to a super-high SPF rating and there may be dangers.
Aerosols are not recommended either. They get breathed in and, by it’s nature, sunscreen is water resistant, so it coats the lungs. That can be dangerous, especially in young children.
Can you make your own effective sunscreen? YES! Google, “make my own sunscreen” and you’ll get dozens of useful links. But you’ll need to get your hands on some ingredients such as emulsified wax or raspberry seed extract that may not be easily obtainable in your area. They are not in mine. If you know of an “etsy shop” dealer who’s baking up some yummy scented, all-natural, zinc-oxide/coconut oil based sunscreen, buy it up! Chances are very good that it’s safer and more effective than any comparably priced item you’ll find at the drug store.
Now you know all you need to know about how to be safe in the sunshine. Turn your computer off and go enjoy the beautiful summer day. That’s what I”m going to do right now. :)